LFF 2018: Fourteen Of The Best Films We Caught At The 2018 BFI London Film Festival

on Friday, November 30, 2018
Words: Lauren Johnson-Ginn & Saam Das


The 62nd BFI London Film Festival came to a close last month, concluding with well-received Laurel & Hardy biopic 'Stan & Ollie', starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly. The 2018 LFF was similarly well received, with record audience numbers, including almost 150,000 attendees for its London screenings and over 30,000 more at satellite screenings across the UK. We've rounded up a selection of our top films from the 200+ features on offer at this year's LFF below.

'A Private War'
★★★★



Incredibly immersive, heart-in-mouth warzone scenes and a fiercely intense performance from Rosamund Pike are the highlights in this biopic, which explores the fraught career and turbulent inner life of war correspondent Marie Colvin, who tragically lost her life in 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Director Matthew Heineman’s background is in documentaries, and this comes through in the gritty realism of the film, which doesn’t attempt to ‘Hollywood-ify’ or airbrush Colvin’s flaws – instead offering a compelling portrait of a remarkable, brave woman, and the human cost of war. (LJ-G)

'Beautiful Boy'
★★★



Adapted from two real-life memoirs by David and Nic Sheff, 'Beautiful Boy' stars Steve Carell as a father struggling to make sense of his son’s (Timothée Chalamet) spiralling drug addiction. Films about addiction often run the risk of veering into cliché, but the narrative here focuses less on the sordid detail and, poignantly, more on the relentless grind of relapse and recovery – and the fracturing impact this can have on families. Both Carell and Chalamet deliver deeply affecting, nuanced performances that may justify Oscars buzz next year. (LJ-G)

'Been So Long'
★★★★



Who knew Michaela Coel could sing? This is just one of the wonderful surprises in store in this effervescent musical adaptation. Cole plays a world-weary young single mum who, after being dragged on a night out by her best friend (played by the hilarious Ronke Adekoluejo), meets a charming stranger – with much ensuing romance. There are so many refreshing things about this film, notably the diverse cast, the catchy contemporary songs (with music composed by Arthur Darvill of 'Doctor Who' fame), and the wonderfully frank and unabashed treatment of female sexuality. Now on Netflix UK, this is worth taking a break from 'Hill House' for. (LJ-G)

'Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story'
★★★★


A documentary that shares similarities with the similarly excellent 'Shut Up And Play The Piano', which also played at this year’s Festival. Much like the enigmatic Chilly Gonzales featured in the aforementioned doc, Chris Sievey was a larger-than-life artist whose creativity exceeded the musical sphere. A counterpart to 2014’s Michael Fassbender-starring 'Frank', this wonderful effort provides both joyful and tragic insight into the man behind the papier maché-adorned alter-ego/ramshackle musician Frank Sidebottom. (SD)



'Benjamin'
★★★★


Simon Amstell’s debut theatrical release (following 2017's BBC iPlayer mockumentary 'Carnage') features an uncertain, awkward filmmaker showcasing his new feature at the London Film Festival. Sound familiar? Amstell’s latest work is as funny as ever, although perhaps some of its emotional vulnerability suffers as a result, overpowered by the humourous overtones. Nonetheless, a segment featuring Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo eviscerating the film-within-a-film is worth admission price alone. (SD)

'Bros: After The Screaming Stops'
★★★★



One of the biggest pop bands around in the late eighties, Bros split in under a cloud in 1992 - leaving a sense of unfinished business for the band’s core siblings Matt and Luke Goss. Documenting a 2017 reunion gig at The O2 Arena in London, 'Bros: After The Screaming Stops' shows us the journey to and from Bros, charting the band's formation and rise to their subsequent activities. Past member Craig Logan is strangely erased from the history of the band, although this does allow the Goss twins' eccentricities and tensions to receive the full attention they deserve. Even in its cringe-laden moments, this is an enjoyably compelling music doc. Out now on VOD and DVD/Blu-ray. (SD)

'In Fabric'
★★★★


British auteur Peter Strickland has established himself as one of the leading voices in contemporary leftfield cinema, with films of the calibre of 'Berberian Sound Studio' and 'The Duke Of Burgundy'. His latest work, 'In Fabric', is arguably his best yet, a tongue-in-cheek giallo-esque horror that delights in its absurdist dialogue and surrealism. Sadly, we can have too much of a good thing as the plot of 'In Fabric' overextends itself but nonetheless, it’s quite the romp - with special mention for the striking synth score from Cavern Of Anti-Matter. (SD)

'Museum'
★★★



"Why ruin a good story with the truth?" posits 'Museo', or 'Museum' for translation fans. An off-beat take on a mid-eighties heist of Mexican cultural artifacts, Gael Garcia Bernal displays his typical magnetism in Alonso Ruizpalacios' (whose debut feature 'Gueros' appeared at the 2014 LFF) ludicrous but entertaining caper. (SD)

'Nancy'
★★★★★



It’s been a stellar LFF 2018 for stellar actress Andrea Riseborough, who also appeared in the bizarre genius of 'Mandy' alongside Nic Cage, as well as this captivating feature debut from writer-director Christina Choe. As the unstable titular character, Riseborough is enthralling and unsettling, suitably supported by excellent performances from Steve Buscemi and J Smith-Cameron. Sadly, the film received a muted cinema release in the UK but is out now on VOD/DVD. (SD)

'Roma'
★★★★★



Alfonso Cuaron’s latest classic is perhaps unexpectedly a Netflix Original, and consequently only scheduled for limited release in cinemas. Which is a shame as it is a masterpiece from a masterful director, whose previous work 'Gravity' saw him rewarded with a Best Director Oscar. Set in seventies Mexico, it's entirely possible that this incredible black-and-white character drama will see similar plaudits - 'Roma' may well be the first Netflix film to receive a Best Picture nomination. (SD)

'Sorry To Bother You'
(★★★)



Having impressed in 2017’s 'Get Out', Lakeith Stanfield shines again, this time in the leading role as a disaffected call centre employee, in this grotesque, sci-fi influenced take on modern America. Tackling race, capitalism, art and corporate greed with wry humour, director Boots Riley’s debut feature offers up a surreal, dystopian vision of the future that’s frequently funny and disturbing. If you like Charlie Brooker’s 'Black Mirror', this will tick your boxes – even if it does become a little jumbled in the third act. (LJ-G)

'Widows'
★★★★



Co-written by director Steve McQueen and 'Gone Girl' author Gillian Flynn, with an obscenely talented cast featuring Viola Davis and Daniel Kaluuya, and a score by Hans Zimmer - 'Widows' was one of our most hotly anticipated films going into this year’s Festival. Fortunately, this remake of Lynda LaPlante’s eighties TV show did not disappoint - its current lukewarm box office success aside. A heist thriller with a difference, and well worth a visit to the cinema, where is remains on release in the UK. Special mention to the film’s undoubted and unexpected star Olivia, the West Highland Terrier. Good dog. (SD)

'Wildlife'
★★★



Paul Dano takes the helm for the first time on this adaptation of Richard Ford’s 1990 novel of the same name, co-written for the screen with Zoe Kazan. While Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal understandably receive top billing, the teenage Ed Oxenbould is a revelation in 'Wildlife'. His quiet turn as the stoic son of Mulligan and Gyllenhaal’s characters, as their marriage crumbles, is heartbreaking. This poignant drama is still available in limited cinemas across the UK. (SD)

'Wild Rose'
★★★★★


Tom Harper’s 'Wild Rose' delivers a triple whammy of strong performances in the form of Julie Walters, Jessie Buckley, and Sophie Okonodo in this tale of a Glaswegian single mum's attempts to become a country music star. A crowdpleaser, in the best way possible. Jessie Buckley follows her hypnotic performance in 'Beast' with this fantastic leading turn as the aspiring country singer, contributing her own vocals no less - truly, a star is born. (SD)

Find more info at bfi.org.uk/lff.

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